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Frequently asked questions (business)

Information about planning permissions for businesses and commercial properties.
Use Classes

What are Use Classes?

In England, the use of land and buildings are organised into categories known as Use Classes by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). 

The Use Classes were last updated by the Government in September 2020.

How do I know what Use Class I am?

The Planning Portal provides a useful guide on the Planning Use Classes.

What if I need formal confirmation from the Council?

We can answer queries about your business use class via our Planning Information Service.

Can I get confirmation that I do not require planning permission to change use class?

Apply for a Lawful Development Certificate via the Planning Portal to confirm your business Use Class change is permitted development. 

What if my use class is listed on a planning permission? 

Business units in planning permissions may be secured by planning condition or planning application, which may restrict changes of use which are normally permitted development. Restrictive planning conditions or planning obligations will have been imposed for specific reasons and in these cases, you are advised to contact us via our pre-application service


Do I need planning permission to change my shopfront?

You need planning permission for any alteration to your shopfront that would change the shop’s appearance. This includes replacement shopfronts, installation or replacement of new entrance doors, windows and external security measures.

If your shop is within a listed building, you must apply for Listed Building Consent for any internal or external alterations. Works without permission to a listed building are a criminal offence. 

Security shutters

Do security shutters need planning permission?

External security shutters require planning permission. You are advised to refer to the Shopfront design guide supplementary planning document which provides guidance on external security shutters. 

If your shop is a listed building, you must apply for listed building consent. Works without permission to a listed building are a criminal offence.

Am I likely to get permission?

The Shopfront design guide refers to open-grill shutters as an acceptable form of external security. These are also sometimes referred to as ‘brick-bond’ type shutters. 
Solid external shutters or perforated shutters of a metal roller type are unlikely to be supported. 

Advertisements and signage

Do I need advertisement consent?

In England, the Advertisement Regulations control the display of advertisements and signage. This includes hoardings, shop signage, estate agent’s boards, electronic advert boards and flags.

Adding or changing your advert/signage may require advertisement consent. This includes lettering on an awning or blind. 

Some signage does not require consent, these are known as deemed consent rights. 

If your signage or advert is fixed to listed building, you must also apply for listed building consent. Works without permission to a listed building are a criminal offence.

What if I am unsure if my advert needs permission?

We can provide guidance via our pre-application service.

The Government has also produced guidance: Outdoor Advertisement and signs: a guide for advertisers.

Ventilation and extraction equipment

Does ventilation and extraction equipment need planning permission?

You will need planning permission to install, alter, replace or move air conditioning, ventilation or extraction equipment. This is where any part of the equipment is fixed to the outside of a property.

If your ventilation or extraction equipment is to be installed in a listed building (to external and internal walls), you must apply for listed building consent. Works without permission to a listed building are a criminal offence.

Am I likely to get permission?

You must refer to the Councils adopted Local Requirements List for planning applications. All applications which would result in noise generation must provide a Noise and Vibration Impact Assessment / Ventilation and Extract Statement, this should include an acoustic report undertaken to the latest version of BS4142 to demonstrate the rating level of the noise emitted from the mechanical shall 5dB below the existing background level at any time.

Statements must include details for the management of odour abatement technologies/ systems to mitigate and manage unpleasant odours generated during cooking activities in commercial kitchens. These are important to prevent or minimize the release of cooking odours into the surrounding environment, ensuring a comfortable and nuisance-free atmosphere for both neighbouring properties and patrons. 

We can provide guidance via our pre-application service.

We will consult the Councils Environmental Protection Team on applications for ventilation and extraction equipment. 

Conservation and energy retrofit

See guidance on whether planning permission or listed building consent is needed for energy efficiency and retrofit proposals in conservation areas or listed buildings.

Do I need permission for works of demolition of a building in a Conservation Areas? 

Consent is required for works of demolition in a Conservation Area, and this is applied for on a planning application form (there is now no Conservation Area Consent form). Demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area without permission is a criminal offence. 

What is an Article 4 Direction?

An Article 4 Direction brings items of work into planning control that wouldn’t otherwise need permission.  These are frequently introduced in Conservation Areas to allow control over works to ensure that they will preserve or enhance the character and appearance of a conservation area. They area also introduced to control the change from residential dwellings to small Houses of Multiple Occupancy. See copies of Article 4 Directions.


What are Lewisham’s refuse and waste standards?

All information relating to Lewisham’s commercial refuse and waste standards can be found here.

When do I need to refuse storage and management plans?

Planning applications that propose new kerbside or off-street servicing are required to submit a Delivery and Service Plan. Additionally, any proposals for a new refuse store or arrangement will need to include a refuse strategy.

Where this detail is not evident in a planning application, we may use planning conditions to secure this information prior to occupation/ opening of the business.

How is business waste collected?

Commercial waste guidance can be found on the Business rubbish and recycling collection webpage 

Can I get pre-application advice?

Yes, you can discuss your proposals with a planning officer and get planning advice or listed building advice before you submit your application.

Can I get information about submitting an application?

We have published a comprehensive list of planning application FAQs.